Installing the best skid plates on your 4×4 is pretty much essential if you do any type of off-road driving. Whatever type of 4×4 off-roader you drive, and especially if that 4×4 off-roader is a Jeep, there are off road skid plates designed to affordably protect its vital organs and other components from damage when used in challenging terrain.

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Skid plates, specifically, attach to the underside of the vehicle in question—and while some are used to make a styling statement, they also have the all-important functionality of providing a physical barrier between rough terrain, and your truck, SUV or Jeep’s most vulnerable parts, including the oil pan, exhaust, radiator, fluid lines, fuel tank, and more.

Protection is also available for off-roaders who want to protect their vehicle bodies and bumpers from damage, too.

Off-road skid plates and other armor provisions come in many shapes and sizes, and with a wide range of advanced functions. Below, we’ll highlight some of your best skid plates across a wide range of price points.

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1. Editor's Pick: Smittybilt XRC Engine/Transmission Skid Plate

This tough and well-reviewed skid-plate kit from Smittybilt parts provides strong, direct-fit protection for some of the most vulnerable parts of your Jeep. With provisions to protect the oil pan, transmission, and catalytic converter of your modern Jeep JK, this single kit provides multiple angles of peace of mind. With complete protection in mind, this easily installed skid plate array is cleverly designed down to the last detail.

For instance, tapered bolt head protectors allow the bolts to slide across rocks in low-clearance situations, rather than breaking off or being damaged. A black powder-coat finish fends off corrosion for the long haul, and no cutting or drilling is required for installation. Generally positive owner reviews round out the package, with most users reporting satisfaction with the quality, durability, ease of install and precise fitment. Some owners wish for better instructions and have found YouTube videos to be better help than what is supplied. Regardless, our staff has chosen this product over all other off-road skid plates as our favorite.

2. Best Off-Road Bull Bar: TAC Bull Bar

TAC Bull Bar

Since it’s not an off-road skid plate, this bumper and grille guard won’t protect your 4×4’s oil pan or fuel tank, though it can add a high-functionality styling touch, and some added protection against impacts and damage to your vehicle’s front bumper, radiator and front-end parts. Made of heavy-duty stainless steel with a mirror polish finish, the TAC Bull Bar is a direct bolt-on part and comes with all mounting hardware and installation instructions.

Direct fitment ensures easy installation with no drilling and it comes with a three-year warranty and is available in sized to fit more than 100 vehicle models.

3. Best Aftermarket OE Replacement Skid Plate: Dorman Fuel Tank Skid Plate

With affordable protection designed to install in a snap, the Dorman Fuel Tank Skid Plate is available for various applications. The Doorman aftermarket skid plates ensure a proper fit every time, using your vehicle’s existing mounting points, with no drilling required. The steel construction is powder-coated for a good appearance and corrosion resistance, and protects your vital fuel tank from wear, corrosion and penetration on the road less traveled. It’s one of the best skid plates you’ll find anywhere.

Owner reviews are generally positive, and most owners appreciate that this plate is constructed from a single piece of steel, without welds that could compromise its strength or encourage corrosion. Ideal to replace a rusted or broken factory skid plate with a strong new one, this item is affordable and offers a perfect fit—though many shoppers have noted it’s not an upgrade over stock strength or functionality.

4. Best Rocker Protection: Poison Spyder Rocker Knockers

Providing tough protection for your vehicle’s vulnerable rocker panels is the name of the game for this popular pair of CNC laser-cut steel Rocker Knockers – among the best skid plates in the industry. Built by Poison Spyder, they’re made of 3/16” plate steel and 1.5” tubing. Extra strength comes built in, thanks to the strategic use of special strengthening dimples. Angled specifically to protect rocker panels from impact, deformation or perforation, Rocker Knockers slide over rocks and other obstacles while leaving your vehicle’s factory bodywork unscathed.

Bolt-on or weld-on installation is possible, depending on the users intent. Countersunk flat-head cap-screws are provided for a totally flush surface beneath your Jeep, and a triangular design with gusseted tubing provides a significant strength advantage over the competition. Easy installation and effective protection round out the package—though the Rocker Knockers are relatively pricey and may interfere slightly with entry and exit from the vehicle.

5. Best Drivetrain Support Upgrade: Poison Spyder Extreme Duty Trans Mount Cross Member

Another product you wouldn’t expect to see in a list of off-road skid plates, this trans mount cross memer beefs up the underside of your Jeep. This direct-fit transmission mount cross member, which replaces the much weaker (and thinner) factory hardware with a thick, bare-steel unit for superior protection against bends, dents and damage. With thick-gauge steel and strategic internal reinforcement, the mounting points of this cross member are virtually crush-proof, which helps contribute to the ‘extreme duty’ designation.

The Poison Spyder Extreme Duty Trans Mount Cross Member comes ready to paint or coat to your precise needs and tastes, and other skid plate provisions that attach to the factory cross-member will bolt straight on, thanks to this product’s use of the exact dimensions and mounting locations of the factory cross-member. It’s a simple upgrade, with a big improvement to protection.

6. Best Body Protection Option: Trail Corners

With a wide range of compatible Jeep models, these Trail Corners are a simple and effective way to add protection and style to the exterior of your 4×4. Affordable, durable and easy to install, they enhance the appearance of your Jeep while protecting its rear corners from damage from rocks, trees, and other obstacles. Cut from 1/8” steel and precision designed for perfect fitment the first time, they’re a seamless way to cover your factory corners and OEM flares. All mounting holes and other pass-throughs are pre-cut, and all required attachment hardware is included in the kit.

The fitment is so precise, you can even re-use your factory license-plate mounting hardware. A black powder-coat finish enhances durability, and is compatible with virtually all colors. Though install is easy and straightforward, some cutting and drilling is required, so seek professional assistance if you’re uncomfortable doing the work yourself.

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What You Should Know About Skid Plates

Do Your Homework (On a Forum): When deciding which skid plate kit might be best for your ride and how you drive it, consider doing some research from within an online owner’s forum before you buy. Whether you drive a Ford pickup, a Toyota FJ Cruiser, a Jeep Wrangler, or virtually anything else, there’s an online owner’s forum full of like-minded drivers of the same vehicle as you. Search for that forum, look for an ‘off-road’ sub-forum, use the search function, or post up questions. In many cases, online discussions between owners of the same vehicle will help point you at a frequently-favorited skid plate, as well as some tips, considerations, and possibly even owner reviews and installation videos.

Consider Professional Installation: Skid plate kits may not be the most difficult-to-install off-road accessory, though professional installation is still worth some thought. With proper tools, equipment, experience, and know-how, your local off-road shop can quickly (and properly) install the skid plate kit of your choice (we’d suggest getting the best skid plates you can afford), leaving you with added confidence and peace of mind that the job is done right—and that your vehicle’s underside is fully protected.

Worth the Investment: Money spent on a full, high-quality skid plate kit is money well spent. Given that a single rock strike to your fuel tank, oil pan, steering, radiator, or air conditioning evaporator can cost you thousands in damage (not to mention leaving you stranded with a broken vehicle, miles from help), we recommend opting for the most highly-rated and comprehensive kit you can afford. Some skid plate products are sold as complete kits, and others allow shoppers to pick from a selection of specific protective plating implements. Consider what you drive, how you drive it, and what protection you need. As a bare minimum, consider investing in some strong protection for your vehicle’s oil pan, oil filter, radiator, transmission, and fuel tank—as unlike damage to a body panel or exhaust part, damage or puncturing of any of the above components will likely stop your excursion dead in its tracks.

Ask Questions: Given that skid plates come in numerous sizes, strengths, configurations and setups, the options are nearly limitless. Aluminum or steel? Full or partial protection? What about corrosion? Weight? Fuel economy? Should you spend a heap on a high-end skid-plate kit, or is your budget better spent on other off-road accessories and parts, like auxiliary lighting, a tire and wheel upgrade, or a winch? To help you sort through the options and wind up with the best skid plates for what you drive (and how you drive it) be sure to ask plenty of questions, and to deal with a reputable and knowledgeable seller who can answer them for you.

The Downsides: 
Understanding both the pros and cons of installing a skid plate setup to your 4×4 is important. Light to moderate off-roading in an off-road vehicle may not require any additional skid plating at all—or may be a great reason to consider adding some smaller, targeted protective plates, instead of a full-on kit. Is the added protection of a full skid plate kit worth the added weight, and its effects on handling, steering and fuel economy? Will the skid plate kit you’re installing make it more difficult to work on your vehicle when it’s time to service or maintain it? Like many off-road parts, skid plate kits have both pros and cons that you’ll want to understand to help make a more informed decision.

Additional Resources

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Updated 7/14/2021: Updated product descriptions, deleted discontinued product, added new product (Smittybilt XRC Engine/Transmission Skid Plate), added additional resources, ranked product